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Ensure victims of sexual violence do not have to be cross-examined in court

Last updated: 11:38am 31 January 2019

We will ensure that child victims and victims of sexual violence are able to be cross-examined before their trial without the distress of having to appear in court.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.44

Our verdict

Cross-examination in court can be distressing for vulnerable or intimidated victims, such as victims of sexual violence. Publicly providing evidence of traumatic, degrading or abusive events can upset or further traumatise the victim, especially when speaking in front of or being directly cross-examined by their alleged abuser.

Between 2013 and 2016 the government piloted a scheme where child victims and some vulnerable adult victims were given the option of pre-recording their cross-examination evidence before the trial. Plans were made to roll-out the scheme nationwide and to extend it to victims of sexual violence from 2017. But the date was pushed back indefinitely by the end of that year.

Just before the general election the government had been in the process of passing the Prisons and Courts Bill and legislating to ban cross-examination of victims of domestic violence, which includes sexual violence, by alleged abusers. But the bill fell as the general election was called.

A study of domestic violence by Queen Mary University and Women’s Aid found that a quarter (24%) of the women interviewed had been cross-examined by their abusive ex-partners in court.

Following a consultation from March to May 2018, in January 2019 the government published its response and a draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The draft bill contains provisions which, if it becomes law, may fulfil this policy pledge and prohibit cross-examination of victims of sexual violence in court.

In light of the draft bill, we’re marking this policy as ‘in progress’. We’ll be tracking the development of the bill, as well as consulting with independent organisations as to whether the proposed legislation offers protection from in-court cross-examination for “all” victims of sexual violence.  Follow this policy for updates.

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